If Facebook has its way, the internet will be flying at more than 50,000 feet.
The social network’s boss Mark Zuckerberg announced yesterday the company has completed the development of Aquila, a solar-powered drone Facebook hopes to use to bring internet to remote parts of the planet where people cannot connect, according to a story this past Friday by ABC News.
While the craft’s dimensions — about as light as a car with a wingspan equivalent to a Boeing 737 — are impressive, ABC News said, what may be the most stunning feature of the new drone is its ability to use a laser beam to transmit at a rate 10 gigabits per second.
ABC quoted Zuckerberg as saying the drone is “precise” and “like science fiction.”
The system is so precise, according to Zuckerberg, that it can connect with a dime-sized object from more than 10 miles away.
U.K.-based newspaper The Guardian also covered the news, featuring an up-close photograph of the drone.
Black wings are fixed to the top of a fuselage primarily made from a web of square tubing painted with what appears to be Facebook’s well-known shade of blue.
The Guardian quoted Facebook Engineering Director of Connectivity Yael Maguire as having said that the plane will operate between 60,0000 and 90,000 feet.
According to The Guardian, the drone took 14 months to build and can stay airborne for 90 days. The craft was tested in Britain last March, the story said.
The Aquila program, which was first tested in Britain in March this year, is geared towards bringing internet access to the 10% of the population who do not have it.
The Wall Street Journal‘s blog said 10 percent amounts to between 1.1 and 2.8 billion people without internet.
According to a quote by Zuckerberg included in the ABC story, the drone is part of Facebook’s Internet.org project, through which they hope to connect the entire world to the internet.